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New Castle County Council votes against prohibiting electronic communication devices

A proposal to prohibit the use of cell phones and other communication devices by council members during New Castle County Council meetings is voted down.

Councilman Penrose Hollins introduced the rule change which would include cell phones, tablets, and even laptops where council members can communicate.

The issue for Hollins is the use of those devices could lead to the public believing a council member is not paying attention, or receiving information related to a vote that isn’t being shared with the rest of council or the public.

Hollins argued council is being hypocritical by not making the change.

“It's a disservice to the public to discuss the public's business behind a shield that the public's eyes and ears cannot penetrate. Some of us were concerned with the use of the chat room by the residents of Back Creek, so we shut down the chat room. Let's not be hypocrites here. I conclude that text messages is far more covert than a chat room.”

Other members of council said access to the phones are important to communicate with family especially in emergencies. The rule change wouldn’t have prevented personal use for emergencies.

Councilwoman Dee Durham didn’t support the change, and she says communicating with her assistant can be a big help during a meeting.

“To ask him a question about something that's been raised or ask him about something being introduced so he can do some research for me to help me make a decision or ask questions or whatever. So, I certainly do not want to hinder my communications with him now during a meeting, especially in the Zoom world that we’re in right now.”

The measure was voted down 9-3 with one present.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.